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Soil samples reveal urban mercury footprints
Date:7/19/2011

D., professor of earth sciences at the School of Science at IUPUI.

Coal-fired power plants produce electricity at a relatively low cost. This is false economy, according to Filippelli, who directs the Center for Urban Health at IUPUI, because these cost figures do not factor in the impact of these plants on human health. He is a pioneer in the emerging field of medical geology and served as the first elected chair of the Geological Society of America's Geology and Health Division.

Mercury poisoning can cause permanent neurological damage in humans. Pregnant women and their fetuses are especially susceptible to mercury, much of which enters the body through consumption of contaminated fish.

"We are fouling our local as well as global environment and little has been done to stop it. It all comes down to the choices we make to produce energy. As we gain a better understanding of the deposition and risk patterns of mercury from using dirty coal as our primary energy source in the Midwest, we hopefully will be better able to stop or decrease the emission of this neurotoxin and halt the damage it is causing humans," said Filippelli.

Carrie Lynn Hatcher, a former graduate student in the School of Science at IUPUI, now at the University of Toronto, is the co-author of "Mercury Cycling in an Urbanized Watershed: The Influence of Wind Distribution and Regional Subwatershed Geometry in Central Indiana, USA."

The study was supported by the School of Science at IUPUI and the IUPUI Center for Urban Health.

In a November 2010 publication, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported that mercury concentrations in Indiana watersheds "routinely exceeded criteria protective of humans and commonly exceeded criteria protective of wildlife." One in seven fish in Indiana contain mercury in levels not fit for human consumption.


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Contact: Cindy Fox Aisen
caisen@iupui.edu
317-274-7722
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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